The auxiliary robot that was developed in the context of the ExoMars mission, which is scheduled to be launched to Mars in the fall of 2022, has successfully completed its first deep excavation experiment, according to the European Space Agency.
On Earth, the mobile robot’s twin, Rosalind Franklin, drilled and extracted samples at a depth of 1.7 meters. It is much deeper than what has been found on the surface of the Red Planet, up to seven centimeters, according to the European Agency.
This success constitutes a “promising first phase” of the Exomars mission, according to the agency’s statement.
Europe and Russia are participating in this mission, which is based on sending a European probe to the surface of Mars to dig there in search of traces of past life, with the Russian Proton rocket carrying the probe to its destination.
The mission, which was programmed for the year 2020, was postponed to 2022 for several reasons, most notably the Corona pandemic.
The roving robot Rosalind Franklin, named after a British molecular biologist, was designed to dig into the Martian soil at a depth of up to two metres, enough distance to collect potential organic materials that may have been preserved about 4 billion years ago.
The ExoMars program aims to investigate the presence of any trace of life on the surface of Mars. In its ancient history, this planet had bodies of water, and its temperature was more moderate, which are elements that raise the great suspicion among scientists that it contained a form of life.
The robot’s counterpart on Earth, called the Ground Test Model, has extracted its first samples thanks to a simulation system of the surface of Mars at the headquarters of Altec Aeronautics in Turin (Italy).
“Reliably collecting samples from the ground is the main scientific objective of Exomars, in order to study the chemical composition of soil that has not been exposed to harmful ionizing radiation and then monitor traces of previous life,” said George Fago, the researcher in charge of the project.
As for the actual rover, “Rosalind Franklin”, it is in preparation for the upcoming trip in about a year. The first launch margin for the ExoMars mission will be available on September 20, 2022.